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Highlands Ranch High School - Mr. Sedivy
Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Tisenjoch Glacier Mummy
The Iceman

The Iceman was discovered on September 19, 1991 by hikers, Erika and Helmut Simon. As the couple left the marked summer mountain trail on their descent from the Finailspitze, they came upon a gully in the rocks filled with glacier ice and meltwater. The pair discovered a corpse with its head and torso sticking out of the ice, and the nearby remains of a container made of birch bark.

The Iceman shortly after its discovery
One of the First Photos of the discovery of the Iceman
Location of the Iceman
Location of the Mummy Near the Tisenjoch

The Iceman was discovered in a 6-foot to 9-foot deep gully in the rocks. The topography had protected the mummy from the force of the glacial ice flowing since the Copper Age, leaving the mummy and his objects more or less in their original location.

At the time of the Iceman's death, approximately the 4th millennium B.C., climatic conditions similar to those of today likely prevailed. However, almost immediately after his death, the iceman along with all of his equipment must have been covered by a layer of snow.

Mountain range where mummy was discovered
Peaks from left to right: Schalfkogel 3540m, Mutmalsp 3519m,
Hintere Schwärze Cime Nero 3624m, Marzellsp 3500m, Similaun 3597m.
(Elevations approximately 10,500 - 11,000 feet)

Melting of the Glaciers

A small glacier, flowing eastward toward the Niederjochferner, once covered the slightly sloping terrain surrounding the location of the Iceman. Due to warm summers, the melting process had sped up over recent years and reached an unprecedented level by 1991. This process was accelerated further by a heavy precipitation of Saharan dust that tinged the snow and ice fields a yellowish-brown color.

Topographical view
Province of Bolzano Aerial Photo Enhanced with Topographical Map Lines

It was generally assumed that the person discovered had been a victim of a climbing accident in the 20th century - possibly a man named Carlo Capsoni, a music teacher, who had gone missing in the area in 1941.

The day after the discovery, an Austrian rescue team was helicoptered to the site. The team tried to release the corpse from the ice using a pneumatic chisel. As the meltwater continued to drain into the gully, the rescuers worked under water with great difficulty. After about half an hour, the chisel ran out of electricity leaving the corpse only half-freed.

Iceman after first recovery attempt
The Iceman After the First Recovery Attempt

The weather was worsening and the team did not have the appropriate tools with them, so the rescue was suspended. An axe blade with its attached haft that was laying on a nearby ledge was taken from the site to prove that the body was more than one-hundred years old.

Meanwhile, rumors about the find began to spread, claiming that the body had head wounds, had been tied up, and had brandmarks on its back. These rumors led to criminal proceedings involoving an examination of the body to determine whether it had been a victim of crime.

The next day, September 21, 1991, two rock climbers, Hans Kammerlander and Reinhold Messner, happened accross the mummy.

Kammerlander and Reinhold
Hans Kammerlander and Reinhold Messner with the Iceman

They uncovered the corpse and lifted its head for the first time exposing parts of the mummy's clothing. When the pair looked for further objects, they discovered the remains of birch bark containers, a bow, and part of a quiver strut.

Birch bark containers
The Iceman's Birch Bark Containers

An Austrian television crew arrived at the Tisenjoch two days later, on September 23, 1991, the same day as the official recovery of the body.

1 - Discovery of the Iceman

2 - Recovery of the Iceman

3 - Medical Examination of the Mummy

4 - The Iceman's Clothing

5 - The Iceman's Tools and Equipment

6 - The Return of the Iceman to the South Tyrol

7 - The Iceman's Prehistoric Use of Medicines

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